Return from NARA, Fill ‘er up, and Ulithi

USS Boston CA-69 - Mar 44
USS Boston CA-69

I just returned from the National Archives in College Park Maryland, where I was able to find some really interesting things about the USS Boston.  I had three strategic goals, find the rest of the crew members  on the Boston that I don’t have, expand the info and picture library, and copy the entire Decklog of the Boston.  As usual with trips to NARA, I mostly accomplished everything, but I’ll need to return to get more info.  This is absolutely how things go at a place with all the info hidden in boxes and researchers who need to find out more info.

In terms of my goals, here is my report: I found the 20-40 marine names who were assigned to the Boston from Jun of 1943 to February of 1946.  I ran out of time to get the last 6 months of marine records before de-commissioning.  I have not yet found records of the Aviation group.  I was able to photograph the Decklog: it runs about 3500 pages from commissioning in June of 1943 to decommissioning; I’m planning to have two organizations of the decklog, first in month order so it can be read online, and second as a series of files like the Personnel file that can be placed as references to Sailor records.  In the decklog I found info that two Admirals, leaders of Cruiser Division 10, were on board from Dec of 1943 to February of 1944.  With the Brass also comes the worker bees: over 20 Marines supported the Admiral and 20-50 sailors had permanent places on the Boston during the admirals stay.  My daughter Rivka helped photograph and scan pictures; We’ve done a lot of this before, but never so organized!  So as usual we got lots of info, but need more! 🙂

As I was reading more of records I was copying, I read one interesting nugget: The USS BOSTON held 730,000 Gallons of fuel oil when fully loaded and used about 38,500 gallons a day!  Wow!  That’s quite the load of fuel.  Success in the Pacific for World War II depended on the US being able to deliver fuel and food to ships operating 1/2 way around the world.  This leads me to Ulithi atoll.  When the US found this atoll it had people who were very primitive, living in a group of islands with on of the largest natural harbors in the world.  The US relocated some of the tribesman off of MogMog island, built a runway, and a rest and relaxation station, and proceeded to build the greatest Floating harbor that’s ever existed.  As many as 700 ships, including the USS BOSTON were anchored at Ulithi harbor between battles.  Logistically, fuel and supplies were delivered to Ulithi to support the fleet.  The exisitance of Ulithi was a secret until after the operations had been moved closer to Japan and by then it was only a memory for sailors and history buffs!


1 and 1217 with 3022 sailors watching :-)

Tonight I have finished entering all the arrivals and departures of all the sailors of CA-69!  We have 3,022 sailor records, as of tonight all their arrival and departure information is complete along with all of their promotions!  Yeah!

So what’s with 1 and 1,217?  When I look at the data, we had two sailors attend the commissioning ceremony on June 30,1943 and they were re-assigned the next day!  They each spent 1 day on the Boston: They are Robert B Johnstone and Robert J Duren.  These are the shortest services on the Boston in my records.  On the other side, five sailors spent 1,217 days from Commissioning to Decommissioning on the Boston with only the normal leaves given to all sailors.  These five had no time off the ship in Hospital, or temporary duty.  They were Robert Earnest Lafavour, joined as a seaman second class, he was from the New Hampshire area, he was promoted to Seaman first class after nine months on board, 11 months later he was promoted to Coxswain, after 3 years and almost 4 months we and his other 4 sailors who spent the most time onboard, departed on the USS BALTIMORE.

Next is Marion Ray Shores, Marion came to the Boston as a Machinist Mate 2nd class having enlisted in January of 1941, Marion had experience coming into the Boston.  Marion was promoted the Machinist Mate 1st class after 11 months, and he left the Boston at this rank.

Ralph Sydney George is next, Ralph came to the Boston as an experienced sailor also enlisting in 1941, he was a ShipFitter.  He had a bit of a rough patch with a demotion on board, but he regained his rank over his long service on the Boston.

Robert Emile Haas, came to the Boston as a raw recruit, a Seaman Second Class.  He was promoted the Seaman first class after 14 months on board and he departed the ship as an Seaman 1st class.

Finally, Clifford Ross Jones fills out the longest serving Sailor.   Clifford also came as a raw recruit and was promoted to Ship’s Cook 3rd class and promoted again to Ship’s Cook 2nd class.

A few numbers: There are 3,022 sailor records, with 2,707 promotions.  The records include 6,476 individual transactions of sailors arriving and leaving for both temporary assignments and permanent transfers.  The most sailors onboard at any one time is 1,592 sailors May of 1945.  Over the next months and beyond I’ll be finishing the discipline records and working on notes and decklogs to bring interesting stories…


April 1st 1946: USS BOSTON in San Francisco

I’ve just finished updating the arrivals and departures for April 1st 1946. In March, the Ship was in San Francisco where Sailors were busy some arriving an most departing. The war officially ended in August, but the Navy needed to move lots of men and supplies around, so some Boston veterans departed in september, some in October and November, and many sailors in January to March. As of April 1st 1946, there were 650 sailors on board, at this point 2,980 sailors had spent between 1 day and 1,000 days on board. On this day April 1st, 77 sailors are still on board from the commissioning on June 30, 1943. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the boat’s sailors on April 1st, 1946 are new to the boston, added from January to March. About 200 sailors were added in November and December of 1945 in japan and they left the ship when it arrived in San Francisco in February and March. The ship is being prepared on this date to go to Washington State for it’s eventual decommission in the fall of 1946.

The fastest way to a promotion is through Hell

As I’m processing promotions for January 1944 (so far we have over 220 and I’m only half way through the month), I kept processing firemen promotions.  Many promotion for firemen came three at a time, one month after the other.  So I got curious, I had an image of a these guys in fire suits putting out fires and I thought, wow of all the jobs, why is this one so special?

Then I googled the job:  Fire and tend boilers. Operate, adjust and repair pumps. Oh, yeah work in the bowels of the ship, in a dark hot environment shoveling coal into a boiler (OK, the WWII cruiser didn’t use coal); but I think that’s my definition of Hell.

I remember my Dad talking about what a crappy job working in the engine room was and how he was happy to be in the signal area where you might get shot by a ‘nip zero’ but at least you could breathe!

So congratulations to all the firemen of the Boston, your promotions were well deserved!

Database update: I have 1,774 individual records with data, and I have 618 names without data.


The Hard Way

April 3, 2010

Dear Dad,

Five years ago today, a few minutes before 2 am Pacific Time, you died just the way you lived — The Hard Way.   Admitted to the hospital around 6 am on April Fool’s Day, you were in a coma.   You faced death just the way you wanted to — unplugged; no respirator; no life support.   The doctors said you’d live for a couple of hours. You hung on, minute by slow minute for twenty-four hours.   Then you hung on for another twelve. Then, for good measure, you beat Death for eight more hours.   You finally drew your last breath seconds before we changed the clocks to Daylight Savings Time — effectively wrangling another hour from the Reaper.   The Hard Way.

I don’t know for sure how you were with my brothers or my sister as we grew up.   But with me, everything you and I did was The Hard Way. You and I both know what I’m talking about.

You didn’t tell me about your “Navy Days” or your grueling experiences aboard the Boston. You should have.   I didn’t ask. I should have. I had to find out on my own, the hard way.   I started doing some research a couple of months before you died.   Right after your funeral, I started in earnest. Then I started writing A Bird’s Eye View. My original intention was to write an account of your service for my three sons. Guess what, Dad?   When I finally started writing my book, within six months I lost you; the company I worked for was bought out. I lost my job. Oh, and after thirty years of marriage, I got divorced.   And there was that lawsuit thing . . . Rough six months.   But I bore down and wrote through all that turmoil.   Sound familiar?   The Hard Way.

Oh, I meant to tell you . . . some sons and daughters and grandchildren of your crewmates have stumbled onto my book and this website. They’re sending me pictures and documents and such so that their dads can be remembered too. A couple of your crewmates have read it also. They told me they cried.   They told me I did a good job telling it just like they remembered.   Not so many of them left, it looks like.

I think you’d be proud, Dad.   I say “I think”, because you’d never come out and say that. That’d be The Easy Way.   You’d make me try figure it out for myself   –   The Hard Way.